A/n: Hello! Thank you for reading! I just wanted to say hi and thanks for checking out my new fic. It will tie in heavily with Morrowind and Oblivion. You don't have to have played these games to understand this fic. I would recommend a very quick read up on the main event points of both games (you can find a wealth of information on UESP, the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages). I think these things are discussed in Skyrim itself, though. I'm going to try my best to get the lore things right in this fic. Send me a note if you want me to send you any lore-specific articles :)
AND HEY if you like the other game tie-ins idea, you should check out Amhran Comhrac's fic "Under Distant Moon and Star". (She's mah buddy :3) It's a great fic of a similar flavor and you will absolutely get Vvardenfeels.
General warnings for this fic: There will be violence and angst and sex and adult themes. It may contain homosexual relationships and/or polyamory. If there is anything that might be a trigger to someone (eg: rape), I will put it in an a/n at the top. I don't see this happening, though in this fic. I don't feel like it's going to be as dark as my Fallout fics.
(Chapter edits include grammar, spelling, tagging dialog, and omitting passive voice)
May I shrink to dust
In your cold, wild Wastes,
And may my tongue speak
Its last hymn to your winds.
I pray for the herder
That whistles to his guar at play.
I pray for the hunter
That stalks the white walkers.
I pray for the wise one
That seeks under the hill,
And the wife who wishes
For one last touch of her dead child's hand.
I will not pray for that which I've lost
When my heart springs forth
From your soil, like a seed,
And blossoms anew beneath tomorrow's sun.
"Words of the Wind", an Ashlander Poem
4E 201. Skyrim.
People spoke, their voices joining in with the sound of wagon wheels rattling against uneven cobbles. Her arms fell asleep long ago, each nerve on fire from having her wrists tied together behind her back so tightly that she couldn't cast if she tried. She went from getting out of a long prison sentence, only to be captured and imprisoned again.
She tried to think of where she'd been last and how she got into this position, but the person next to her interrupted her thoughts.
"Wake up, dark elf."
Mehra cracked her eyes open. How did he think that she was asleep? By the looks of his clothing, this man was a rebel.
"By Ysmir," he swore, "not even these bumpy roads could wake you. You were caught too, in that Imperial ambush when you were trying to cross the border, same as that thief, weren't you?"
Mehra supposed so. There was nothing that could be done about it, though. Captured was captured, simple as that. She spent most of her life as a captive.
She remembered trudging through knee-deep snow, her limbs numb. Mehra didn't have much left, save the rags that clung to her malnourished frame and the sacred ring that reminded her of a time when she had so much more. To them, she was another refugee from Morrowind, from times and places long past. She was supposed to go this way; she was supposed to go here, at that specific time.
One of the other prisoners swore at the rebel, tossing his hair back out of his face with a shake of his head.
"The Empire was lazy before you Stormcloaks came along," he hissed. He turned to her and shook his head again.
"We don't belong here," he grumbled, "we're not rebels."
"We're all brothers and sisters in bonds now, thief," the rebel shrugged.
Up ahead, one of the guards ordered them to be silent. The thief ignored it and gave a nod in the direction of the gagged man next to her.
"What's up with him?" he asked.
"Shut it!" the rebel barked. "You're speaking of Ulfric Stormcloak, the true High King."
The thief panicked, This was the rebel leader. They headed to their execution.
Mehra closed her eyes. She knew when they captured her. She sighed and stared down at the grayed floorboards of the wagon. This was a strange way for the end to come upon her. After nearly two centuries in jail in Akavir, she was released only to meet her execution in Tamriel.
The rebel jerked his head in the direction of the decorated Imperial at the front of the line.
"General Tullius," he sneered, "and it looks like he brought the Thalmor. Damn elves; I bet they had something to do with this."
"We certainly did," Mehra smiled. She closed her eyes and let her head loll to the side.
The years felt heavy. Mehra hadn't heard the word "Nerevarine" in two hundred years, and maybe she liked it that way. She didn't think she'd ever hear it again either – not in this strange land. Maybe that was for the better.
The rebel began to reminisce, and Mehra couldn't help but feel that perhaps, he was as nervous as the thief. He knew this town and the people in it.
The wagon stopped in front of a tower where a headsman waited in front. At the signal of the guards, Mehra hopped out of the wagon as best she could with her arms bound behind her back.
She ignored the dramatic pleading of the thief until he took off down the road, only for the archers nearby to riddle him with arrows. The Imperials left him in the street, moaning and bleeding out. Beheading would have been kinder, but she didn't expect mercy from any of them.
They called names until she was the last one left. The man with the ledger didn't have her name.
"Who are you?" he asked, keeping his quill ready.
"Mehra Dreloth," she replied. Without waiting to be asked, she spelled it out for him.
"Another refugee?" he sighed. "The Gods have really abandoned your people, elf."
"Man has abandoned my people," Mehra replied. She heard enough about what happened while she was gone as she traveled.
Whispers arose around her, more than likely making nasty comments. She figured if those were her last words, then it would be satisfactory.
Her words must have struck a nerve; the Captain ordered her to the block as well. The man writing her orders apologized and promised that her remains would be returned to Morrowind. Mehra swallowed thickly; there would be more ashes on that island, on top of ashes innumerable.
She followed the others to a line in front of the block, and listened as Tullius publicly denounced Ulfric Stormcloak for crimes innumerable. Mehra wondered what it would take for peace, and figured that it would be the end of the world before either side laid down their arms. Allow the Nords their Talos; keep all the other parts of the Concordant. Stop fighting before they destroyed the land and created more orphans.
Nobody would listen to an old Dunmer anyway.
A rumble sounded off in the distance, and Mehra glanced up toward the sky. This was no volcano, nor was it tremors; she heard the grumblings of such for years. It sounded like the roar of a daedroth.
The General ordered that the execution continue and a priestess of Arkay began to recite their last rites. She called upon the Eight – the entire reason for the war – and a rebel interrupted her loudly by volunteering, swearing an oath on Talos as he stepped forward.
As the Captain threw the man down at the block and the headsman kicked his head into place, the rebel shouted his last words.
"My ancestors are smiling at me today, Imperials! Can you say the same?"
Without further delay, the headsman chopped his head off in a single stroke. Mehra supposed that yes, the Imperials believed the same, regardless of his final words.
"Next prisoner, the dark elf!" the captain called.
Mehra sighed. They wouldn't give her the dignity of calling her a Dunmer. As she approached the block, memories of a time long past came to her – of arms wrapped around her shoulders, shielding her from the wind as she stood atop a tall tower high above a sleeping town. Of the cold, of shivering and wondering if it was from the weather or from the thrill of being so excited about change.
Her head rested on the block. Blood warmed her neck.
Mehra closed her eyes and shivered. Death awaited her.
A roar echoed off the sides of the keep, rattling the windows of the nearby houses. It rumbled through her very being, and her heart roared in reply. Mehra's eyes slid open.
There was a dragon on the keep.
Gathering her strength, she pushed off of the ground, her knees digging into the slushy mud below. If she were younger – if she wasn't weakened and dull from her prison sentence, so many ifs – she would have found it terrifying.
"Dark elf get up!" the rebel from the wagon shouted. "Get up! The gods won't give us another chance."
The small part of her brain that was yet animal sluggishly churned, prodding her to follow the rebels into the nearby guard tower.
It was a terrible place to hide, but she didn't have many options.
"Jarl Ulfric!" the rebel shouted. "Is that a dragon? One from the legends?"
Ulfric shook his head and gazed out at the black dragon. "Legends don't burn down villages."
Mehra smiled and leaned back against the slimy wall.
"In my experience," she countered, "they certainly do."
She closed her eyes. There was that one spell, that one time, where Erich cast fire on a wide area. It was explosive. The Champion of Cyrodiil was a talented man, but fire didn't come naturally to him. He nearly burned his own pants off.
"Silly oaf," she chuckled.
Mehra opened her eyes. The rebel and the would-be-king glared at her in mistrust. She must have spoken out loud.
"I'm senile," she shrugged.
Wary of her, they untied each others' bonds, ignored hers, and began to run up the stairs. Just as the first of them made it halfway up, the dragon burst through the wall of the tower, spewing flames with a ground-shaking roar.
She knew this sound.
Mehra climbed the stairs, staring after the creature in wonder and terror.
The sound – a word, she now realized – was part of the dragon's incantation. Yes, she knew this word, but she didn't know how to say it, nor its meaning. She must have encountered it in her studies centuries before. No doubt, it was some ancient, forbidden knowledge from the Telvanni –
The dragon made direct eye contact with her and narrowed his red eyes.
She remembered the sound of the fire incantation and he knew that she knew something about it.
The dragon's third eyelid slid over the staring pupil, and in a split-second decision, he lifted off from the tower, shouting and burning a path through the town once more.
Mehra caught up with the rebels on the stairs and peered through the hole that the dragon left. Below were the remains of a store, its roof smashed in and its walls on fire.
"I bet you could jump into the inn from here!" the rebel shouted. "Go on! We'll catch up with you!"
Mehra quirked her brow at the lot of them. It was a plan to get rid of the 'gray woman', no doubt. Still, if the Imperials were on the other side of the guard tower's door, it wasn't necessarily a bad idea to try to jump for it.
Sighing, Mehra took a step back, then dashed forward to leap into the next building. The landing reverberated throughout her body, and her teeth clacked together violently on the impact, her vision flashing. She was out of practice.
Staggering to her feet, Mehra stumbled her way out of the building. If her hands weren't bound, she could grab some food from the counter. She hopped down the stairs of the inn's destroyed porch and glanced around to attempt to find the best escape route.
"Hey, dark elf!"
Mehra wheeled around, her spell hand twitching uselessly behind her back.
It was the Imperial guard who took the execution ledger.
"Stay close to me if you want to stay alive," he said.
Mehra stared after him, pondering his words. The Imperial captain was nowhere to be seen, and from the sympathetic look he gave her earlier, she supposed that he opposed executing her. Still, she couldn't be too sure.
"Please, follow me. I won't harm you!" he called.
She allowed him to keep his delusions. He hadn't proven himself trustworthy, just like the rebel. Neither offered to cut her bonds.
She followed him as best she could, ducking behind stone walls to dodge the dragon's fire. Ahead was the keep.
The dragon descended again, landing on the other side of the wall. It inhaled deeply as it gathered a breath for another blast and her hair stood on end at the tell-tale gathering of magic. Seconds later, the dragon belched fire again and screams echoed into the alleyway in which she stood. If it waited to see if its victims were dead, Mehra couldn't say. The dragon took off from his perch, taking to the air to circle above Helgen once again.
The guard darted out from cover and motioned for her to follow. "Come on, prisoner!"
Shaking her head, she ran out from behind the wall and stopped at the sight of the rebel running in the same direction as them. As soon as the Imperial soldier saw him, he scowled.
"Ralof, you damned traitor, get out of my way!" he shouted.
Ralof crossed his arms. "We're escaping, Hadvar, and you're not stopping us this time."
"Fine!" he scoffed. "I hope that damn dragon takes you to Sovngarde!"
Shaking his head, Ralof called out to her so they could escape together. Hadvar shouted a counter-offer that amounted to, "follow me, not him!"
Mehra closed her eyes and sighed. If she were truly honest, she was better off with the seemingly repentant lackey of the executioner, rather than the wanted criminal associated with a band of marauding rebels that wanted nothing to do with anyone aside from other Nords.
With her mind made up, she ran along with the Imperial soldier, who hurriedly ushered her toward the building in front of them.
"Quick!" he said. "I can cut you loose inside the keep."
The keep doors slammed shut behind them, and her eyes began to adjust to the dimly lit living quarters. Hadvar drew his dagger and approached her.
"Let me get those bindings off," he said.
The dagger sliced into the rope, freeing her sore wrists.
"There you go," he sighed. "Take a look around for some equipment. I'm going to look for something for these burns."
Mehra shook her head as she looked at the red skin on his arms.
"I'd heal them, but I'm too weak right now," she admitted.
"You know healing magic?" he asked.
Mehra turned to look through the room for things of use.
"Sure do," she replied. "I learned a bit from a woman named Sharn gra-Muzgob. Turned out to be a necromancer. Kind of odd that she was interested at all in healing magic. I haven't practiced in such a long time though."
Opening a cabinet revealed a sad, wrinkly apple. Her stomach growled as she snatched it and bit down with little examination.
She was eating, right? Was there a flavor to this apple? Mehra tried to tell herself to calm down and eat slower, but her mouth took on a life of its own. The entire apple was gone in seconds.
She needed more.
"I'll be on the lookout for something for you to eat as we leave," Hadvar said. "At least, something portable."
Mehra turned to face him. In his outstretched hands lay a worn set of Imperial armor. It was something at least. He continued to search the room as she dressed. As Hadvar leaned over a cupboard and rifled through it, a thoughtful look crossed his face.
"So, do you know any other magic?" he asked.
Mehra shrugged as she tugged on an oversized pair of Imperial issue gloves. "Some of everything."
The armor was large, but she couldn't be too picky. At least it was Imperial-sized, rather than made for a Nord. She supposed that there wouldn't be much to fit her undernourished body, regardless. Mehra could find something suitable later.
"Ah. Where did you study?" Hadvar asked.
Anything more than that, she wouldn't say. Mehra didn't quite know what she was dealing with.
Thankfully, he didn't bother asking more, and instead, handed her a sword.
"Pardon," he said. "Would you please repeat your name to me? I want to make sure I pronounce it right."
"Mehra. And thank you."
Hadvar shrugged. "Got to know who has my back, right?"
He led her through the door on the far end of the room. Voices echoed from down the hallway and the pair crouched.
"Stormcloaks," Hadvar whispered. "Maybe, they'll leave us alone today."
They crept forward, but almost immediately, the Stormcloaks caught sight of them. There were three of them, and though Mehra typically wouldn't have worried about being outnumbered, she was out of practice and weak. She unsheathed her sword and waited for the Stormcloaks to charge her.
Thankfully, her body remembered exactly what to do. Mehra ducked their slower axe swings and attacked their exposed sides.
When the fight was over, she had two kills to Hadvar's one, though the activity winded her easily.
"You sure know how to handle a blade," Hadvar remarked, pulling his sword out of the chest of one of the attackers.
Mehra thanked him and they made their way down a corridor and into another room. As soon as she entered the room, smell of rabbit stew hit her.
There was food here.
The keep rumbled along with her stomach, and Mehra wondered if there was time to suck down a quick bowl.
Hadvar gently grabbed her wrist. "We've got to get out of here. Come on!"
He led her deep into the keep, toward what he said was a secret escape route out through the mountain.
A secret tunnel exit wasn't a secret if everyone knew about it. If an attack – an attack that wasn't a dragon burning the town down – occurred, then the keep was wide open for an assault. The Stormcloaks must have known about it. As Mehra followed Hadvar from the keep into a series of caverns, they encountered dozens of them.
"I suppose that if the dragon hadn't attacked," Mehra mused, "that you would be neck-deep in Stormcloaks. Perhaps that Ulfric fellow would have been rescued."
She knelt down in front of a mountain spring running through the cavern. It bubbled up nearby from a pile of rocks; it had to be safe to drink. Sighing, she scrubbed her hands under the frigid water, and then cupped a handful of it to her face.
"Can't tell if they're going in or coming out, can we?" Hadvar sighed. He shook his head as he crouched next to a slain enemy, rifling through the rebel's bag. He pulled out a piece of bread and cheese and took them over to Mehra.
She nodded a quick thanks then stacked the cheese on top of the bread, tearing into both at the same time.
"Not a proper meal," Hadvar said, "but it's something. You'll probably need quite a few meals to regain your strength."
Mehra swallowed the dry food and turned to the dead rebel at his feet. "Did she have any money on her?"
Hadvar frowned and looked back at the fallen Stormcloak. Sighing, he whispered an apology, grabbed the bag, and tossed it toward Mehra.
"She's not going to need it," Mehra said. She shook the bag and heard jingling.
"That isn't the point," he sighed. "The food is one thing; taking money off of kin is another."
Mehra shrugged. "I never understood the concept."
She found a coin purse in the bottom of the bag. Snatching it up, she tied it to the belt of the armor.
"You have no family?" he asked. "No friends you would call kin? Not even a shared bond of culture?"
Mehra sighed. The question was difficult.
"I was born on an uncertain day to uncertain parents," she replied. "And, I tend to outlive friends."
Part of her remembered the love and warmth of many, but this was from another life long ago.
"You do not have to wander life alone," he murmured.
Mehra looked up to meet his eyes. He held her gaze for a brief moment before turning away.
He knew that she had given up.
"We need to keep moving," Hadvar said.
"Always," Mehra mumbled.
He didn't comment as she followed him through the winding caverns, until they reached a small tunnel leading toward a bright light. Mehra shielded her eyes as they stepped out of the cavern onto a small path leading down the mountain. They crouched and crept over to a nearby rock to take a look around.
"Dragon could still be around," Hadvar whispered.
Mehra nodded and glanced back toward the smoking ruins of Helgen. True to their suspicions, a roar echoed down into the valley below, and soon after, the dragon took off and flew overhead toward a nearby mountain.
"He's gone near Bleak Falls Barrow," Hadvar said. "Hope he didn't land there. Riverwood is at the base of that mountain."
The snow in front of them was crisp and clear. Stepping out of the hiding place, Mehra gave Hadvar a small smile.
"At least we know there's no Stormcloaks around here," she said. "There's no footprints."
"A good thing, too," he nodded. "We made good work of them in the caverns, but I doubt we'd hold half the army off."
They took off down the path, descending out of the snowy mountain and toward a distant river. As they walked, Hadvar's steps became lighter.
"You know, you should think of joining the Imperial Legion," he said. "We could use a fighter like you. If you go to Solitude, you could sign up."
Mehra shrugged in indifference. If she were completely honest, a large part of her didn't care if she lived or died.
"Why not?" Hadvar smiled. "I'm certain your execution was a mistake. I can get any issues cleared up for you. And I'll do it no matter what you decide to do."
There was something honest about the kid that made Mehra laugh. He didn't get it.
He gave her an odd look. "What?"
"It's been a long time since I got involved in Empire business," she admitted.
Hadvar seemed unconvinced. "I'm sure that it's not too long."
"About two hundred years."
Hadvar laughed and stopped almost immediately when she didn't join in.
"I'm serious," Mehra deadpanned.
In front of them was a road sign. Mehra took a look at it, getting her bearings as best she could. She studied the lay of Skyrim many years ago, but it was quite possible that things changed.
"You don't look a day over twenty," Hadvar whispered.
Mehra chuckled. "Well, aren't you a flatterer?"
Hadvar bit his lip and looked down at the ground. Silently, he continued to lead her down the hill, occasionally glancing back. It seemed that he suddenly had cold feet. Mehra was never really good at keeping her mouth shut, and the weight of centuries and the countless more she could endure made her occasionally more reckless.
She arrived, she supposed. This was why the old Telvanni Masters were grouchy and hedonistic. She saw the charm of being centuries, even thousands of years old, and performing a ritual to become youthful again. Messing with the 'kids' must have been fun for some.
Mehra ought to have looked to one of her colleagues to find a life companion. Now, she was quite certain that none of the Third Era greats were left. At least, she hadn't heard any sign of them. Mehra hadn't really looked, though.
"I meant nothing by it, Hadvar," she said.
He glanced at her again. "And I didn't mean to sound rude, ma'am."
Hadvar's Nord country-boy manners struck an old scar in her heart. Mehra swallowed the ache and gave him a nod.
They continued on until the road ended into another. A trio of Standing Stones marked the left side, just before the junction. The only three that could be there would be the Guardian Stones. Hadvar confirmed this by pointing them out.
"I've read about them," Mehra said, "but I didn't think to go see them in person. Stones similar to these can be found all around Cyrodiil."
She approached the circle of stones and sat with her back leaning against the Mage Stone. Its energy pulsated against her, filling her with a strong desire to continue to learn the secrets of magic.
"The stones want people to learn," she sighed.
Hadvar nodded and Mehra closed her eyes. The energy felt good.
"You're very welcome to join me in Riverwood," Hadvar said. "My uncle, Alvor, is the blacksmith there. I have no doubt that he can help you get started and give you a meal or two. I owe you a lot for helping back there. I'm not sure if I could have made it out on my own."
Mehra smiled, keeping her eyes closed.
"You may have made it out fine," she said. "Allow me to rest here and go on up ahead. I might join you."
Her eyes slid open to slits and Hadvar gave her another 'ma'am' before continuing down the road to the right.
As soon as he was out of sight, Mehra stood and glanced around. She spun on her heel back up the path in the opposite direction. She had to get lost, and fast.
With that decided, Mehra headed to Falkreath.
Her path took her beyond the snow, toward a pine forest. As Mehra walked toward Falkreath, she spied a path winding up the hill, and what looked like a hidden statue at the top. Long ago, she would have explored every off-shooting path, and while the desire was long gone, she felt compelled to take this one. It didn't look too far out of her way, regardless. She picked her way up the hill, just to see what was there.
The smell of death and the sight of a statue of Talos hit her at the same time.
She reached the top and took in the sight of dead worshipers, and a lone Thalmor Justiciar, his corpse not far from the worshipers.
She understood, in a way, why the Thalmor wanted the worship of Talos outlawed. Here was this man – the founder of the Empire they sought to conquer – worshiped as a god for no reason to them other than the fact that he founded the Empire.
And history was frequently lost to time. People forgot her name and simply referred to her as 'Nerevarine', they forgot Erich's name and called him 'Champion', and they forgot that it was the blood of Tiber Septim that helped open the gate to Mankar Camoran's paradise so that the Oblivion gates could be sealed once and for all.
There was no reason to stomp out said worship. Let them do what they wished. This wasn't harmful like the worship of Dagoth Ur and joining the Sixth House.
Mehra stooped over the Justiciar, searching along his belt for his purse. Unable to find it, she nudged him with her foot and tipped him over to find it. She counted 200 gold inside. She was well on her way to getting a set of armor that didn't paint a giant target on her back.
With that done, she made her way back down the slope and onto the road toward Falkreath. The sky grew darker, and she realized that she'd have to make camp without knowing how far she was from her destination.
Spending a night outside went poorly. Mehra wasn't used to the sky above her, and eventually, she gave up on the whole thing and traveled onward. With each passing step, the sky grew brighter until dawn broke through the trees.
As the hours passed, she drew closer to Falkreath. The air grew warmer, and pines thickened around the road. The road turned from smooth dirt to chipped cobblestones, leading her straight toward a small town.
She just hoped that they didn't mind the Imperial armor. She was in a tough spot, after all. With nothing much to lose, Mehra strode into the town with as much confidence as she could muster.
As soon she stepped foot in, the guards flanking the entrance gave her a nod. An older man walking down the street cocked his head to the side.
"We don't get many adventurers around here anymore," he said.
Mehra smiled at him. "Is it that obvious that I am not an Imperial Soldier?"
He laughed and nodded. "Takes one adventurer to know one. Name's Thadgeir."
She reached out and shook his calloused hand. "Mehra," she said.
"Where'd you travel from?" he asked. "You're covered in soot."
Mehra frowned. She hated to come into a town and tell them bad news.
"Helgen," she said. "It was attacked by a dragon. I don't know if there are any survivors. I had to grab this armor and get out while I could."
The man's eyes widened.
"That's where it was going," he awed. "Some of us saw it in the sky. Figured it could be witchcraft."
Mehra shook her head. She wished it were an illusion.
"Helgen is in the Falkreath hold," Thadgeir said. "The Jarl must be notified immediately."
"Would it be wise to talk to talk to him dressed in this, or ought I visit a trader?" Mehra asked. She motioned toward the oversized Imperial armor hanging off of her shoulders.
Thadgeir crossed his arms and frowned.
"Better to be cautious," he replied. "Try Grey Pine Goods, right next to you."
Mehra thanked him and turned around. She trudged up the stairs and opened the rough door to enter the shop. It was a rather normal trader, and from a quick glance around, it seemed like they might have what she needed.
The man behind the counter greeted her with a smile just as another made his way down the stairs. He wasn't as impressed as the man behind the counter, and he scowled and crossed his arms, jerking his head in her direction.
"I can't believe we let provincials like you wander around Skyrim," he grumbled.
Mehra narrowed her eyes, spun on her heel, and threw the door open, allowing it to slam behind her as she left the store. If that was their opinion, then they certainly didn't need her business.
Huffing, she spied a smith nearby. Perhaps they would be more welcoming. Mehra walked down the street and approached a man who sat at a grindstone. He stopped in his work and looked up at her expectantly.
"Do you serve Dunmer in this establishment?" she drawled.
The smith shot her a confused look. "Why wouldn't I?"
"I've had some issues," Mehra replied.
"No problem here," he shrugged. "The name's Lod. What are you looking for?"
Mehra began to discuss a deal with him to have a basic set of leather armor in trade for her current set and some coin. Lod was a tough negotiator, but they were getting somewhere. That was when she heard footsteps behind her.
It was the man behind the counter from the general goods store. His bit his lip as he looked at her, his face red.
"Miss, I wanted to apologize for my brother," he said. "I am truly embarrassed. Unlike my brother, I've no issue with strangers. I met many in my travels."
Mehra nodded and accepted his apology.
"If you do want to come by," he continued, "I will give you a discount for your troubles."
She thanked him and watched him leave. When he was out of sight, Lod cleared his throat.
"How about I give you that discount and I let you change behind the tanning rack before someone thinks you're a real Imperial soldier?" he said.
Mehra chuckled and agreed. They came to an agreement on a final price, and Mehra slipped behind the heavy screen of the tanning rack to gear up. The leather armor fit somewhat better, and the pants were much warmer than the Legion's tunic style armor.
Her stomach growled, reminding her that she'd only eaten a tiny apple and some bread with cheese. She would find a proper meal and a place to sleep after she told the Jarl about Helgen.
Mehra made her way over to the largest building in the town, assuming that it was the right place. A pair of guards halted her outside the door.
"What business do you have with the Jarl?" one asked.
"A dragon attacked Helgen," she said. "I wanted to report this to the Jarl so he can take whatever actions he considers appropriate."
The pair of guards stared at each other in horror, nodded in agreement, and opened the door for her. Mehra stepped across the threshold to the Jarl's longhouse, taking in the Imperial officers and civilians dotting the great room. At the front and center, a young man slouched on a throne, not bothering to hide his boredom. Mehra approached him and gave him a modest salute.
"What do you want?" he yawned.
"I come bearing news about Helgen," she replied. "It has been burned to the ground by a dragon. I do not know if there are many survivors."
The Jarl didn't bother to sit up and waved at an Imperial officer off to the side.
"Legate Skulnar," he said. "Wasn't Tullius there?"
The Legate nodded and frowned. "With your permission," he said, "I would like to take a detachment of guards to check on the town. We will report with what is needed. There may be refugees."
"Not too many guards," the Jarl sighed. "I don't want them asking for extra pay for doing this. And see if refugees can be serviced there."
He turned his gaze to Mehra and waved his hand.
"You can go now," he said.
Mehra shrugged and didn't bother to reply. She knew his type. Turning around, she left the Jarl's longhouse, with an Altmer noblewoman in robes following quickly behind her. As soon as the door closed behind them, the woman cleared her throat.
"Madam," she said, "I am Nenya, Jarl Siddgeir's steward. Thank you for informing us of what happened to Helgen. What is your name?"
"Mehra." She wasn't about to give a full name. It was fortunate that her given name was common.
Nenya reached down to her coin purse, grabbed a handful of coins, and pressed them into Mehra's hands.
"Mehra, please get a room for the night and a meal at the inn," she said. "You are most welcome here. The Jarl is young. I appreciate your understanding."
Mehra smiled at Nenya and thanked her, knowing exactly what she meant by 'I appreciate your understanding':
Do not spread it around that the Jarl is lazy and uncaring.
The coin wasn't enough to excite her, and truthfully, wealth didn't mean much to her anymore. It was, however, beyond Mehra's scope of caring to bother to gossip about Jarl Siddgeir.
With the sun setting behind her, Mehra walked down the worn cobbles of Falkreath toward the inn. She supposed she ought to eat. Besides the apple, bread, and cheese, she didn't remember the last time she bothered to have a full meal. Her weary feet took her to the inn. A sign outside read, 'Dead Man's Drink'. The name was interesting enough, she supposed.
Weary, Mehra opened the door and stepped inside. With the coin from Nenya, she ordered a room and a hot bowl of stew. She took the bowl and brought it to the farthest, darkest corner of the inn, hoping that nobody would bother her. Mehra wanted to get to sleep as soon as possible.
It wasn't to be. The door swung open, and Thadgeir called to the innkeepers behind the bar. He then spied her in her corner, smiled, and walked on over.
"I hate to ask you to do another thing," he said. "But, there's a tiny mill town on the river near Helgen. It's called Riverwood. Now, they're not part of our hold, but they could use some protection. They would be defenseless against a dragon."
"There was a young man with family from there who helped me out of Helgen," she sighed. "I suppose I do owe them. Where should I go to get help?"
"Whiterun," Thadgeir replied. "It is very close to Riverwood. If they haven't heard of the dragon attack yet, someone should tell them."
Mehra sighed and looked down at her stew.
"I'll do it," she murmured. "I don't like getting involved anymore, but I'll do it."
She had the distinct feeling that the whole thing was some sort of divine trap.